UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Nearly 2 1/2 years after last playing at the Nassau Coliseum, John Tavares and the New York Islanders gave their fans something to cheer about back at their refurbished former home.
The Islanders returned to the Coliseum for a day for a preseason game against Philadelphia, but that didn’t matter to fans clamoring for the team’s return from Brooklyn. They showed up early Sunday morning to tailgate and participate in pregame festivities outside, including a museum truck and a virtual reality Zamboni experience, and to take pictures with the Stanley Cup.
“It’s nice to be back home,” said Andrew Gagnon, a student at nearby Hofstra University who arrived at 9 a.m. to tailgate. “This is where the four Cups were won. All that history is here. I saw a sign that said, ‘This is home, not Brooklyn.’ That’s how everyone feels.”
Daniel Fisher, a Deer Park resident who has attended every game for 15 years, agreed.
“It’ll be good to see them in the Coliseum again,” he said. “It’s almost like old times. Got here early, 8 o’clock, tailgating. That’s how we roll.”
Tavares scored his second goal of the game 34 seconds into overtime to give the Islanders a 3-2 victory over the Flyers, sending the fans into a frenzy and chants of “Bring them back!”
“Just a lot of fun to play back here, in a place that means so much,” Tavares said. “There’s a lot of good memories, lot of good thoughts even walking through the halls a little bit.”
After celebrating the goal, the Islanders gathered at center ice to salute the fans, and skated off the ice to a rousing ovation.
With the Islanders trailing 2-0, Tavares started the comeback with his first goal just past the midpoint of the second period. Mathew Barzal tied it about 5 1/2 minutes into the third.
Mike Vecchione scored 40 seconds into the second period to get the Flyers on the board first, and Jori Lehtera, who assisted on the first goal, doubled the lead a little more than 8 minutes later.
The “Bring them Back!” chants reverberated around the arena after the third period ended, and Tavares said he noticed.
“I think they certainly wanted to be heard,” he said. “That’s above my pay grade, but certainly this…